Latest News
10/23/11 TO 10/29/11

'Destination casino' bill sets stage for gambling debate in Florida

FL - A long-promised "destination casino" bill was filed Wednesday, allowing three Las Vegas-style operations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and setting the stage for a full-throttle debate about gambling in Florida. The bill will be one of the most heavily lobbied pieces of legislation during the 2012 legislative session, which starts Jan. 10. Social conservatives, as well as business and tourism groups, are opposed. South Florida pari-mutuels want their "racino" slot machines to be taxed less if casinos are allowed. And the Seminole Tribe will fight to maintain its current casino monopoly. Genting Malaysia, Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts, also based in Las Vegas, have expressed interest. Genting has purchased bayfront land now occupied by The Miami Herald, and Sands has been scouting sites. MGM and Caesars reportedly also are interested. In Genting's case -- it has unveiled plans for 10 million square feet of hotels, restaurants, lounges and luxury shops -- that could mean a casino of as much as 1 million square feet, the largest in the world. Casino hotels have hired 43 so far. Racetracks have 76 lobbyists. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, whose casinos now are the only facilities in Florida offering blackjack, has six lobbyists and will likely fight the bill. Finally, business entities such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce (24 lobbyists) and Walt Disney World (21) also object to the plan. / October 26, 2011

'Veterans' group morphed bingo to exploit fuzzy law for strip mall gambling

FL - Perhaps no one has fought harder to legitimize the exploding Internet sweepstakes cafe industry in Florida than Allied Veterans of the World & Affiliates. Allied, one of the state's largest sweepstakes cafe operators, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on state lobbyists and contributed $25,000 for a Gov. Rick Scott inauguration event. It has battled local sheriffs and slapped Seminole County with a federal lawsuit. Its former public relations firm was once headed by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. / October 23, 2011

A bad bet for Florida

FL - Like carnival hawkers, the casino industry can spot a sucker even from a world away. That explains the welcome reception for Genting Malaysia and Sands Las Vegas in Tallahassee, where formerly antigambling, family-value Republicans are poised to consider the biggest expansion of gambling in Florida's history. Blinded by promises of big cash in a bad economy, lawmakers desperate to create jobs, revenue and excitement are poised to bet the state's reputation and quality of life. It's a terrible gamble. Florida voters have rejected allowing full-fledged casinos three times at the ballot box since 1978. No matter. Key lawmakers in the House and Senate, with the tacit support of Gov. Rick Scott, are poised in the session beginning in January to offer a scheme to allow three "resort casinos" in Broward and Miami-Dade counties -- without a statewide vote or even a vote in the counties directly affected. / October 23, 2011

As Powerball jackpot soars, new business gambles on online ticket sales

FL - But LottoGopher doesn't sell Powerball tickets. Instead, for a monthly fee, they do the legwork. But it also means that for the first time, Floridians can use credit cards to purchase lottery tickets, something that concerns the people operating the state Gambling HelpLine. "This is another expansion of gambling in the state," added Kongsvik. "Not only is buying lottery more accessible now with this new program, the ability to buy Powerball tickets online with credit cards is something that is concerning." It could also entice people who can least afford to gamble -- such as the homebound, disabled and elderly -- who may not have the ability to go to the store to buy tickets, he said. Players have until four hours before a drawing to pick their numbers online and submit them to LottoGopher, which goes to a store to purchase them. "It's as if your friend went to the store for you," Morel said. / October 28, 2011

Bill may halt Lee County gaming plans

FL - A Las Vegas-style casino that has been floated as a possibility in Lee County could not be built if legislation filed Wednesday is passed as written. But Mike Horn, president of Fort Myers-based Champion Development, which has proposed a casino resort east of Interstate 75 near Colonial Boulevard, said the initial bill filing means nothing. In another move to make their bills more palatable to anti-gambling opposition, the word "casino" does not appear in the 142 pages of legislation and gambling is called "gaming." "It's a farce," said Izzy Havenick, whose family owns the dog track in Bonita Springs. "This bill is about job creation. Just don't take the jobs from my facilities and take them over to theirs." If the legislation is approved by state lawmakers, though, the tribe's compact with the state of Florida would be voided and the $250 million a year it pays the state would end. The destination resort casino can operate and serve alcohol 24 hours a day, seven days a week. / Oct. 26, 2011

Brevard Mulls Idea Of Destination Casino

FL - Some local leaders think a 26-acre strip of land owned by Port Canaveral along A1A could be an ideal spot for a destination casino. We already have slot machines throughout the state," said State Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who will supervise the senate's consideration of a bill that would open up some areas of South Florida to casino gambling. / October 25, 2011

Builders Back Expansion of Casino Gambling in Florida

FL - The latest to join the ranks in favor of more destination resorts is the board of directors of Associated Builders and Contractors, Florida East Coast Chapter. / October 25, 2011

Carlos Gimenez, Getting Cash From Genting and Magic City Casino, Tests His Loyalty

FL - Gimenez publicly supports Malaysian giant Genting's bid to bring a gambling resort downtown -- and he's taken thousands from the firm -- but the latest gambling bill in Tallahassee would help Genting at the expense of Magic City Casino, one of the mayor's long-time supporters. Gimenez was already twisting arms for campaign funds. Between July 1 and Sept. 30, the mayor raised half-a-million dollars for Common Sense Now... A political action committee Gimenez formed that conducts polls and runs ads on his behalf. Translation: If this bill passes, Magic City would have a hell of a tough time getting a license and an even tougher time surviving if it doesn't. / Oct. 28 2011

Casino bill sacrifices horse and dog tracks for mega-resorts

FL - The goal of the proposals by Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, and Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, "is to reduce gaming in the state and have the kind of gaming that is actually going to produce revenue,'' Bogdanoff said. That would mean no equal treatment for South Florida's eight racinos -- race tracks and casinos -- which would pay higher tax rates than the new casinos and be allowed to operate only pari-mutuel and slot machines. It would mean no more monopoly for the Seminole Tribe, which would lose its exclusive right to operate blackjack, baccarat and other table games at their seven Florida casinos and would stop making annual payments to the state. To that end, the authors have carefully cleansed the bill of any emphasis on gambling. The 142-page overhaul of state gambling regulations never uses the word "casino" but instead refers to the facilities as "limited gaming" and calls the legislation the "Destination Resort Act." Florida's 55 horse and dog tracks, jai-alai frontons and card rooms have been financially stagnant for the past decade and have been forced to return to the Legislature every year to get additional games, lower tax rates and longer hours to remain profitable. The 10 percent tax rate proposed for the resort casinos is the lowest in the nation, except for Nevada's 6.5 percent tax rate on gambling. Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio have tax rates in excess of 30 percent. The price tag to participate is $50 million, refunded if the state rejects a company's bid. Casino games would include slot machines, roulette wheels, craps, poker, blackjack, baccarat and other table games. Casinos would be open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and be allowed to serve alcohol during all of those hours. A State Gaming Commission would be created to select the winning bidders. It would be exempt from public disclosure rules for some financial data and would be allowed to hold some of its meetings in secret. / 10.26.11

Casino bills filed

FL - After the bill was filed, Sowinski issued a press release asking lawmakers to look into a federal investigation into Las Vegas Sands, which is pushing the casino proposal. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Justice Department in March opened an investigation involving the gambling giant's Macau's casinos. "It's time to ask the tough questions, not fast-track legislation to build the biggest casinos in the world here in Florida," Sowinski said in a statement. "Legislators should learn more about this investigation before moving a bill forward. / October 26th, 2011

Casino issue will be special-interest slugfest

FL - Will Florida lawmakers allow three companies to open $2-billion mega-resorts in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in exchange for a huge tax revenue infusion? If history holds, the answer eventually will be yes. Florida caved to the Seminole Tribe of Florida because its $250-million-a-year payments were too tempting. The company even retained former Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson to lobby Gov. Rick Scott's office, Other companies with resort casino ambitions, like Las Vegas Sands, are giving to Associated Industries of Florida, the business lobby that doesn't oppose gaming. / October 28, 2011

Casino magnates & analysts offer conflicting views of Miami's casino potential

FL - Analysts at Bernstein, Questioned whether South Florida could sustain three mega resorts. It also said it was unlikely they would produce the kind of revenue needed -- $7 billion a year -- to compete with the Seminole Tribe and existing casinos. / October 29, 2011

Casino study boasts jobs in Southwest Florida

FL - A proposed casino resort would deliver a powerful jolt of jobs and money to Southwest Florida, according to statistics from a economic consulting firm. The report was prepared by The Innovation Group of Winter Park, hired by a group headed by Miami Heat president Pat Riley that's working to bring a casino to The Forum, a mixed-use development just east of Interstate 75 between Colonial Boulevard and State Road 82 in Fort Myers. / Oct. 29, 2011

Casinos Pushing Gambling Into Major Florida Issue

FL - It is not as if legalized gambling is unknown in Florida, but the proposed destination resorts, as they are called, would be a radical departure from most of the existing gambling sites, which include casinos run by the Seminole tribe of Florida, as well as "racinos" -- slot machines and no-limit poker rooms at racetracks. Devastated by the collapse of the housing market, Florida struggles with a 10.6 percent unemployment rate and faces $2.6 billion in budget cuts this year. "Expanding casino gambling in Florida would never make sense in a good economy," said Mark A. Wilson, president and chief executive of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. "And the only reason they are even targeting Florida is that they are hoping that desperate people will reach for desperate measures. There is never a good time to push a bad idea." "Everyone is sticking their heads in the sand," said Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican, who introduced the bill in the state Senate this week along with Rep. Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican, who introduced it in the state House. "Florida has become the fourth-largest gaming state in the country -- and we're an anti-gaming state." / October 28, 2011

Casinos proposed for south Florida

FL - "You open large casinos, you open up social problems," said Dr. Marvin Karlins, a USF professor who has written several books on gambling. "For every dollar you gain from taxing casinos, there's $3 in social costs," Karlins said. / 24 Oct 2011

Civic groups plan independent casino gambling forums

FL - Mr. Johnson said he thinks the Greater Miami Chamber eventually will take a position on such legislation. Already, the statewide Florida Chamber of Commerce has taken a stance against casino gambling in South Florida. Chamber President Mark Wilson recently reaffirmed the chamber's longtime position against expanding casino gambling in the state. The Miami Beach Chamber, meanwhile, has contacted City of Miami Beach officials about co-hosting a December public forum on the issue, said Aaron Perry, the chamber's senior vice chairman and immediate past chairman. The public will be invited to the Miami Beach forum. / 10/27/11

Clay gambling probe snares detective, 3 others

FL - Citizens' complaints to the Clay County Sheriff's Office about alleged illegal gambling at two Keystone Heights bars has resulted in the arrests of four people, including a Neptune Beach police detective. The four are charged with keeping gambling houses. / 25 October 2011

Commercial builders counter Florida Chamber and endorse resort casinos

FL - The unanimous vote by the board on Oct. 17 came after several members urged the association's leadership to take a strong position on the issue, even though the group had already formed its legislative agenda, Dyga said. "This really started at the grass roots,'' he said. "There were a couple of skeptics, concerned about the negative things surrounding gambling, but there wasn't a 'no' vote." / October 25, 2011

Council may ban Internet cafes

FL - Clermont city council members will listen to public comments Tuesday before considering their vote on an ordinance that would ban Internet cafes. The ordinance states that it would "not prohibit a religious or charitable organization from conducting a fund-raising activity involving gaming, provided the religious or charitable organization does not conduct the activity more than twice in one calendar year and gives advance notice to police." / October 24, 2011

County officials criticize casino plan for failing to protect local jobs

FL - Legislators left the job of writing the regulatory rules to a new seven-member State Gaming Commission and a new Department of Gaming Enforcement. "They spent a lot of time on the creation of more government and very little time on what the commission's job is going to be,'' he (Ramba lobbyist for Seminoles) said. / October 29, 2011

Critics say Disney wields too much influence in the Florida Chamber of Commerce

FL - Representatives for both Disney and the Florida Chamber of Commerce say that is not the case. Mark Wilson, the chamber's president and chief executive officer, said any positions the chamber takes are vetted first through a small policy council -- which, in addition to Disney, includes representatives from companies such as AT&T, Florida Hospital and A. Duda & Sons -- and then through the organization's full, 55-member board of directors. 10 million-square-foot resort. "This takes you into the big leagues. When you're going to spend billions [to build], you're going to promote Florida no longer, in my opinion, as a place to bring your family. You're going to promote Florida with 'What's said in Florida, stays in Florida,' " said Allan Bense, a former Republican House speaker from Panama City and the outgoing chairman of the chamber's board of directors. / October 27, 2011

Deputies: Man steals money from Collier park to support gambling habit

FL - A Golden Gate Estates man is accused of stealing money from the North Collier Regional Park. He claims he needed the money to support his gambling addiction, deputies say. / October 27, 2011

Destination resorts bill filed in Florida House

FL - Proponents of the bill include casino operators such as Genting Malaysia and Las Vegas Sands, who have advised bill sponsors Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, in what they would like to see in the proposal. "If we arent able to compete on a level playing field, we will be cannibalized," said Dan Adkins, the vice president of Mardi Gras Casino, a dog track in Hallandale that now has slots and video poker. Orlando-based public relations consultant John Sowinski, Said he disagrees with any effort to expand gambling because of the cost to society in increased gambling addictions. "We think this is a dramatic over-reach," Sowinski said. He said the tighter regulations are needed, but disagreed with tying it to the approval of large Las Vegas-style casinos. "While we agree with getting rid of Internet cafes, you don't have to be the biggest casino in the world to do that." The department will have its own law enforcement powers and the ability to subpoena records. / Oct. 26, 2011

* * * Don't be suckered by casino bill

FL - After months of anticipation and work, the so-called recipe for revolutionizing Florida's gambling industry remains terribly flawed. Among the most obvious problems: Contrary to the sponsors' claims that they are looking to only add three mega-casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties (where voters previously approved slot machines for the state's longtime parimutuels), the bill opens the door to let any county -- be it Pensacola's Escambia County, Pinellas County or Palm Beach County -- compete for a casino license as long as it schedules a referendum on allowing casinos. This isn't a plan to limit big-time gambling to South Florida. This is a plan to let outside casino industry players make a fortune at the expense of Florida's family-friendly brand and the state's long-term economic prospects. Don't be fooled. / October 28, 2011

Experts see investment wave in downtown Miami, Brickell

FL - Bernard Wolfson, president of Hospitality Operations Inc., which built the recently opened Hampton Inn & Suites in Brickell, said proposals to open large casino resorts Downtown should be handled with caution because of the potential for taking business away from area hotels and other merchants. Mr. Wolfson also expressed concerns that the city's roads and other infrastructure would be hard-pressed to handle the several million additional visitors a year that the casino resorts are expected to draw. / 10/27/11

FL Bill Includes Tough Regulation and Examination of Casino Operator Applicants

FL - But, as with every element of this high-stakes debate, a tug-of-war has ensued between the two most powerful international players, Las Vegas Sands and Genting Malaysia. Each wants to use the Florida regulations to put the other at a disadvantage, and each wants to distance itself from the organized-crime elements of the Chinese casinos to keep its regulatory record clean. The commission would license casino owners, register anyone who works in a casino and keep out anyone who has a troubled record in another state or country. It would conduct elaborate financial and criminal background checks on owners and key employees, and prosecute and fine anyone for violating state gambling laws. A separate board would have the power to police the casinos, conduct investigations and monitor finances. Genting also came under fire in 2007 by Singapore's gaming officials, who forced the company to pull out of a partnership to build a casino in Macau because its partner, Stanley Ho Hung-sun, had been named by the U.S. Justice Department as a money launderer for the Chinese Triads' organized-crime syndicate. Las Vegas Sands has had its own regulatory challenges. The company announced in February that it was being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits bribes to officers of foreign governments. / October 24, 2011

Fla. Legislature asked to OK casinos

FL - Cannon, R-Winter Park, repeated his position on Wednesday. "At this point, my philosophy has not changed. I am opposed to any expansion of gaming in our state, but I will look forward to reviewing the bill," Cannon said. No Casinos President John Sowinski said lawmakers should ban Internet cafes, but he said tying it to the fate of casinos would be "cynical and self-serving to the casino gambling industry." Cannon added that he was "skeptical about the possibility of a policy package that achieves that goal of passing both houses." He pointed out that the proposed legislation offers the mega-casinos a much lower tax rate and other advantages, like being able to offer types of casino games, such as craps, roulette and blackjack, that aren't available at the South Florida tracks. / Oct. 26, 2011

* * * Florida Casino Bill Would Grow Gaming and Government

FL - Florida, with its 19 million residents and brisk tourism economy, looks like a good bet for gamers. The Fresen-Bogdanoff bill sweetens the pot for them by setting a modest 10 percent tax rate -- the lowest of any state outside of Nevada's 6.7 percent and far less than the 35 percent paid by existing pari-mutuel casinos. Pointing to modest licensing fees stipulated in the bill, skeptics say the state is already misplaying its hand. ... "They're giving away the farm. In Illinois, gaming licenses go for $500 million. Here, we're talking about $50 million," says John Sowinski, head of the No Casinos Inc., of Orlando. "Look at Las Vegas, which has a higher unemployment rate and an even higher foreclosure rate than Florida," said Les Bernal, head of the Washington, D.C.-based group, Stop Predatory Gambling. "It makes no sense to move ahead with this failed model." And in rebuttal to Bogdanoff's jab at small-time "Internet cafes" and "adult arcades" at strip malls, Sowinksi said, "There's nothing stopping us from closing them right now." "There is an extraordinary cost of regulation, layers of government we don't have now," he says. "Just imagine this as a permanent presence." Indeed, the gaming legislation adds more than 100 pages to current gaming regulations, covering even such matters as support for "financially dependent children" of licensees. Bernal said the Fresen-Bogdanoff measure "has very little to do with gambling, and everything to do with expanding the size and scope of government. Casinos wouldn't exist if it weren't for government." "This [gaming regulation] will be funding politicians for years to come. Casino interests will become the biggest soft-money funders. Anyone who cares about honesty and integrity in government should be concerned about this," said Sowinski, At 800,000 square feet, Genting's casino floor would equal the combined gaming space of Las Vegas' Mirage, Wynn, Bellagio, Caesars, MGM Grand and Venetian casinos. The Venetian is owned by Las Vegas Sands. Ousley added, "While they boast job creation and new tax revenues, the sobering truth is that the only guaranteed winners would be the out-of-state and foreign casino owners, who are sure to cash in massive profits while all of Florida suffers staggering losses." "Gaming is based on people losing money, and people who are addicted. / October 27, 2011

* * * Florida Casino Bill Would Grow Gaming and Government

FL - The prospect of one or more glittering resorts in Miami-Dade and Broward counties comes as Florida stares down a $1.5 billion budget shortfall and a chronic double-digit unemployment rate. Florida, with its 19 million residents and brisk tourism economy, looks like a good bet for gamers. The Fresen-Bogdanoff bill sweetens the pot for them by setting a modest 10 percent tax rate -- the lowest of any state outside of Nevada's 6.7 percent and far less than the 35 percent paid by existing pari-mutuel casinos. "They're giving away the farm. In Illinois, gaming licenses go for $500 million. Here, we're talking about $50 million," says John Sowinski, head of the No Casinos Inc., of Orlando. "Look at Las Vegas, which has a higher unemployment rate and an even higher foreclosure rate than Florida," said Les Bernal, head of the Washington, D.C.-based group, Stop Predatory Gambling. "It makes no sense to move ahead with this failed model." Though the bill does not provide a cost estimate to taxpayers, or designate the number of new state employees required to staff it, Sowinski said the regulatory apparatus won't come cheap. Bernal said the Fresen-Bogdanoff measure "has very little to do with gambling, and everything to do with expanding the size and scope of government. Casinos wouldn't exist if it weren't for government." "This [gaming regulation] will be funding politicians for years to come. Casino interests will become the biggest soft-money funders. Anyone who cares about honesty and integrity in government should be concerned about this," said Sowinski, "Floridians shouldn't be fooled by the claims that these out-of-state and foreign-owned Las Vegas-style casino developers are making. They are making promises to limit casino developments to only three, but the hidden truth is the plan would build the largest casino on the planet right here in Florida." / October 27, 2011

Florida Morning: Casino push is on; election law could get teacher big fines

FL - STRIP MALL GAMBLING: Allied Veterans has capitalized on a loophole in state law to use the state's sweepstakes rules to create an exploding industry in so-called "Internet cafes." With bills to either outlaw or regulate them in the upcoming legislative session, the issue will be a hot one. / October 24, 2011

Florida lawmakers bid for Vegas-style casinos

FL - The Republican-backed proposal would create a state agency called the Florida State Gaming Commission to license, regulate and enforce gambling throughout Florida. Gambling fever has gripped the state since Malaysia-based Genting Berhad, one of the biggest international casino developers, announced in May it was paying $236 million for a 14-acre (5.7 hectare) piece of waterfront property in downtown Miami that currently houses the Miami Herald newspaper. No Casinos Inc, an anti-casino group, has questioned claims that expanded gambling would create tens of thousands of new jobs in Florida, which is struggling to shake off record-high unemployment. "The fact is that when casinos are introduced into a developed economy like ours, they do little more than cannibalize existing jobs and businesses," the group said in a recent statement. / October 26, 2011

* * * Florida legislation would help mega-resorts, hurt racetracks

FL - The two lawmakers have carefully cleansed the bill of any emphasis on gambling. The 142-page overhaul of state gambling regulations never uses the word "casino," instead referring to the facilities providing "limited gaming" and calling the legislation the "Destination Resort Act." But critics said the bill falls short of the promises made by Fresen and Bogdanoff to end unregulated gambling because it does nothing to regulate Internet cafes, the gambling parlors that have installed slot machine look-alikes under a loophole in the state sweepstakes law. "All they've done is create very wealthy, legislatively-created patronage positions over casino licenses," said Marc Dunbar, an expert on gaming law and a lobbyist for Gulfstream Racetrack. The proposal also gives an advantage to the early entrants into the casino debate -- the Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, Caesars, MGM and Genting Americas. / Oct. 27, 2011

Fort Lauderdale Sen. Bogdanoff: Fort Lauderdale would never allow a casino

FL - Bogdanoff said the message has been all wrong in the past. She's not trying to "expand'' gambling, she said, or "bring Las Vegas style gambling to Florida.'' / October 28, 2011

Gaming Expansion and Seminole Compact

FL - In 2010, a compact spearheaded by former Governor Charlie Crist gave the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights to Blackjack and other Class III games. In exchange the Seminole tribe is giving Florida a billion dollars in installments through 2015. If the bill is passed and the gaming resorts are only approved for Broward and Miami-Dade County the tribe might scale back its contribution, but if casinos are allowed in other parts of the state... the compact if void. / October 26th, 2011

Herald exclusive: Blunt-talking Genting president answers skeptics, criticism

FL - Au is prepared to lobby "24-7 for 100 days,'' he said -- or as long as it takes for a legislative vote on a bill to bring resort casinos to Miami-Dade and Broward. "I'm stationed here,'' he said Tuesday, in between meetings. / October 23, 2011

Here and There

FL - Las Vegas Casino Mogul Sheldon Adelson expected to fund anti-Obama campaign among Jewish voters... Former Congressman Lincoln Diaz Balart working for Asia Casino Giant Genting... / October 24, 2011

Hialeah mayoral front-runners about even in fund-raising

FL - (Interim mayor) Hernandez has the support of donors to the campaigns of former Mayor Julio Robaina. Among them, entrepreneurs linked to the gambling machine industry who contributed at least $3,550 through their companies, partners and families. Also 45 cafeterias, pastry shops and other small businesses in Hialeah with gambling machines contributed at least $15,685 to his campaign. Half of these contributions reached the limit of $500 per donor. Gambling machines in these businesses, whose operation is regulated by the city of Hialeah, belong to this industry's biggest entrepreneurs, primarily Jesus Navarro. / 10.23.11

How will historic sites survive mege-casino?

FL - Trinity Cathedral, located next door to the proposed gambling casino, is a National Register site. Founded by Julia Tuttle, the "Mother of Miami," Trinity is one of Miami's oldest institutions. How will the dust, noise, traffic and vibrations of massive construction affect this magnificent 1925 structure with its Rose window and Aeolian-Skinner organ that attract visitors from around the world? What provisions are in the development's plans for pedestrian access, traffic flow and parking? How will Trinity continue to offer community outreach, concerts, worship services, weddings and funerals? The church's structure has not even been depicted on the development's planning maps. Miami's historic places are too often treated as afterthoughts in Miami's eagerness to embrace the new. / 10.28.11

Huge expansion of gaming proposed in Florida

FL - The bill gives an advantage to resort casinos. They would pay the state a 10 percent tax, while existing pari-mutuels and the Seminole Tribe's seven casinos in Florida pay 35 percent. But then Florida would also lose its current deal with the Seminole Tribe. That deal guarantees the state $5 billion during its first five years and billions more in future years. "If the state passes bills such as this, then that money... Stops immediately. / Oct 26, 2011

In Florida Battle, Casino Cash vs. Disney Image

FL - The casino bill will be taken up in the two-month legislative session that starts in January. Despite the legions of lobbyists for the gambling industry who have swarmed Tallahassee and the state's appetite for treasure, victory for the casinos is hardly a cinch. That is because the gambling industry faces a daunting opponent: Disney, Florida's most powerful corporation. The powerful speaker of the House, Dean Cannon of Orlando, so far has stayed quiet on the project. But even Jeb Bush, who vigorously fought the expansion of gambling while he was governor, says it appears casinos might find a home in the state next year, so long as it is in South Florida. "The north will let the heathens in the south have the casinos, and they'll take the benefits," Mr. Bush told The Las Vegas Review-Journal... One candidate in the Miami Beach mayor's race has made bringing a new convention center and casino to Miami Beach one of his chief issues. / October 28, 2011

Internet cafe chain leader built on a checkered bingo past

FL - Allied, one of the state's largest sweepstakes cafe operators, Johnny E. Duncan, the nonprofit's longtime national commander, is the man who steered Allied into the sweepstakes cafe business. He hands out checks given to veterans groups and poses for photos with politicians. But Duncan used to run a different game, for a different veterans charity. It got him investigated in one state, arrested in another. In 1987, the Leon County Sheriff's Office arrested Duncan for running an illegal gambling house. Investigators found "fraudulent" documents for the veterans charity being used to run bingo games. He pleaded no contest to a charge of unlawful bingo. He got a fine and a year's probation. Investigators said Duncan and two other men had concocted a fake branch of a charity called Army & Navy Union, records show. Duncan pleaded no contest in 1988 to a misdemeanor count of operating an unlawful bingo game. A condition of his probation: He could not operate bingo games in Florida. Prosecutor Willie Meggs said that ban pertained only to the one-year probation. By 1989, Duncan was running a $10-million-a-year bingo network in South Carolina, also under the name Army & Navy Union. Around the early 1990s, Duncan walked into a bingo hall in Fort Walton Beach, his daughter-in-law, Dana, recalled. The operation was run by V.B.G. 451st, Inc., a group that would later change its name to Allied Veterans. Grossman, Allied's founding father, died in 2004. Soon after that, Johnny Duncan was leading Allied from bingo to Internet cafes. / October 23, 2011

Internet cafes stir heated debate

FL - State Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, has reintroduced a bill he sponsored this spring that would make illegal the cafes, an estimated 1,000 of which have multiplied across the state. The businesses, which often appear in strip malls, sell Internet time on computers. Customers purchase phone cards to participate in sweepstakes contests that resemble slot machines on a computer. "Internet cafes do not offer 'casino-style games,' " Bascom said. "They offer game promotions that are no different than peel-backs at fast food chains, which have been legal in Florida since 1971, as a marketing tool to promote the sale of retail products such as telephone minutes and, most recently, Internet time." "I've never once heard of people going through their life savings, borrowing against their homes and losing all their money buying McDonald's scratch-off tickets," the legislator said. Meanwhile, Sens. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, have filed competing measures that would regulate the cafes rather than prohibit them. Like it or not, Florida is now a gambling state, said Detert, R-Venice, and many seniors like the games. The cafes, she said, "have kind-of turned into the new bingo." / October 24, 2011

Is Bay Area next for mega casinos?

FL - "There's going to be a lot of concerns about bringing destination casinos to the Tampa Bay area and I'm not ready to say I support that," Latvala told 10 News, adding he would expect concerns from families about who that might attract to the region. / Oct 26, 2011

Land around Miami Dolphins stadium eyed for casino

FL - The Miami Dolphins have hired a veteran lobbyist and appear to be pushing to make land around their football stadium eligible for casino licenses in case lawmakers vote to expand gambling. The National Football League prohibits ties to gambling, but holding companies tied to the team and its majority owner, Stephen Ross, own large tracts of land around the stadium. Ross could sell or lease the land for a tidy profit and also benefit from spillover traffic and spending from gamblers traveling to a casino owned by someone else. / 10/23/11

* * * LeMieux and Greer Argue About Who's a Liar

FL - During the Crist Administration, LeMieux was the chief negotiator with the Seminole Indian Tribe where he agreed to a gambling compact that makes Florida the State that gets the least financial benefit from Indian gaming. LeMieux even gave the Seminoles a card game - blackjack - that is not allowed under Florida law for any other entity, a clear violation of the 1988 Indian gaming Regulatory Act. Greer skirts the fact that the Seminole Indians and their casino development partner gave the RPOF $1.5 million with a clear understanding that $350,000 was earmarked for LeMieux. It's clear LeMieux ended the payments because he feared his payoff deal with the Seminoles would be revealed. / 28 Oct 2011

LeMieux says college is too cheap

FL - LeMieux also said he opposes efforts to expand gambling in Florida to include destination casinos such as the giant casino development proposed by a Malaysian gaming conglomerate at the current Miami Herald site. / October 23, 2011

Lee movers, shakers view pros and cons of a casino

FL - COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE BROKER ED BONKOWSKI... He's in favor and doesn't believe the casino would harm existing businesses. LEE COUNTY COMMISSIONER TAMMY HALL... "We've worked really hard to make this be a destination for families and beaches. How does that impact all we've done? Do we hurt ourselves, do we not actually have a net gain? FORT MYERS MAYOR RANDY HENDERSON... "It would be a contribution to the economy that's staggering," he said. "To ignore that would in my opinion be foolhardy." / Oct. 29, 2011

Legislators file destination casino bills

FL - Sen. Ellyn Bodganoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, filed their 142-page "Destination Resort Act" (identical bills) on Wednesday morning. The Department of Gaming Control would license, investigate and make rules related to the state's gaming facilities, a job now handled by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. The department would include a seven-member commission, who would be appointed for four-year terms. Mitchell, the chief administrator for the 15-casino parent company of the Isle Casino & Racing in Pompano Beach, says the state needs to "slow down" and first compare the revenues it has now against those that are projected. / October 26, 2011

Locals React to Florida's Proposed Gaming Legislation

FL - Florida... Voters rejected casino gambling amendments in 1978, 1986 and 1994 but a lot has changed in the seventeen years since that last vote. For now, local tourism officials are staying neutral on the issue. / Oct 27, 2011

Miami casino would be bigger than Vegas competitors

FL - Genting is the only developer to detail its plans for the Sunshine State, proposing a $3.8 billion waterfront resort that will be larger than any hotel on the Las Vegas Strip and contain four times as much gambling space. Two casinos in the Genting complex would dwarf anything offered on the strip. Plans call for a primary casino measuring about 550,000 square feet in a tower on the Herald site, plus an additional 250,000-square-foot casino in a building on the Omni location, said Sergio Bakas, the Arquitectonica architect supervising the design. He said he expected Resorts World Miami to be the largest casino resort in the world if current plans are approved. / 10.27.11

Neptune Beach Detective Arrested in Illegal Gambling Operation

FL - A Neptune Beach detective witheight years on the force found herself on the other side of the law Monday. Burban had a warrant out for her arrest in Clay County, and now faces a charge of being an agent or employee of a person keeping a gambling house. Her significant other, George Chipley McCombs, turned himself in to deputies in Nassau County on a similar charge out of Clay County. / Oct 25, 2011

Neptune Beach detective, boyfriend arrested in gambling house investigation

FL - Camille L. Burban, 41, an eight-year detective in Neptune Beach, was charged Monday with being a "keeper of a gambling house," a third-degree felony punishable up to five years in prison. Her co-defendant is George C. McCombs, 54, of Jacksonville, who is her boyfriend. The report also notes that Burban "was instrumental in drafting an ordinance for the city of Neptune Beach regulating adult amusement centers." The Neptune Beach City Council in January approved an ordinance that limits these gambling centers to only two within city limits. Burban is not only a police detective but also the city's safety officer. She's overseen investigations into everything from the highest-profile police probes to allegations of a hostile work environment at Neptune Beach City Hall. / October 25, 2011

New gambling bill allowing East Coast mega-casinos could hurt local gaming facilities

FL - If three mega-resort casinos come to South Florida under a massive gaming bill proposed Wednesday, casinos as far away as Bonita Springs could suffer from the stiff new competition. It would directly affect Seminole Casinos, including the casino in Immokalee, by stripping the tribe's monopoly on games like roulette and blackjack. And it clouds the future of the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track in Bonita Springs. / October 26, 2011

Opponents line up against new casino bill

FL - The Miami-Dade County Commission was ready to slice the bill to shreds earlier this week as it spent three hours reviewing it and getting public reaction. Meanwhile, others criticized the bill as too light on regulation and incomplete when it comes to policing casinos. The County Commission decided to send a letter to the sponsors of the legislation, Rep. Erik Fresen and Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, demanding they give local government more control over the mega-resorts, allow the county to get a share of the revenue, and carve out protections for the region's pari-mutuel industry. Absent that, the bill could face their collective opposition, commissioners warned. "They spent a lot of time on the creation of more government and very little time on what the commission's job is going to be,'' he (Ramba, Seminole lobbyist) said. The bill sponsors said it will create the toughest gambling control in the nation, "The bill doesn't in practice appear to reflect the intentions of the sponsors,'' said Marc Dunbar, a gaming law expert and lobbyist for Gulfstream Racetrack in Hallandale Beach. / 10.28.11

Port Canaveral's cruise business smashes record

FL - Commissioners were pleased with those numbers. But they were lukewarm on another issue that came before the commission -- the prospect of a land-based casino at Port Canaveral. Although they delayed a formal vote until at least December, several commissioners indicated they were leaning against endorsing having a casino at a port-owned site off the Banana River. Port commissioners were supportive, however, of the operations of Victory Casino Cruises, which employs 450 people and offers 13 offshore half-day gambling excursions a week from the Port Canaveral. / Oct. 26, 2011

Proposed casino could be squashed

FL - Champion Development planned to build the $1 billion casino resort along Champion Ring Road. But according to legislation filed, that will be a crap shoot. Champion Development, however, is confident the legislation will be changed, after lobbyists on both sides of the issue waged a war over language in the bill. Developers have gathered hundreds of signatures in support of the project. They plan to present those to state senators and representatives. If the legislation is passed as its currently written, developers say they don't plan to move this project south. Instead, they'll wait until the 2013 legislative session and push for a gaming resort in Lee County once again. / October 27, 2011

Report: Car towed with boy inside while mom's in strip-mall casino

FL - Mom... Visited... Mall casino... Leaving her 11-year-old son in the car... / October 24, 2011

* * * Rick Scott: Casino Tool or Economic Leader?

FL - Casino tools Erik Fresen and Ellyn Bogdanoff want to "control" gaming by opening the door to destination mega-resorts in South Florida. These two lawmakers should have spent a couple of days kicking the tires in Las Vegas, where they would have learned a lot about how casinos control politicians -- not the other way around. They also would have seen, firsthand, unemployment and foreclosure rates even worse than Florida's. But suggesting he has no aversion to gambling per se, Scott previously indicated that he favored equal tax rates for all gaming ventures. So, of course, the Genting Group, Las Vegas Sands and other casino sharpies are promising jobs, jobs, jobs. The gaming industry hires mainly low-skill, low-pay workers (that's how Las Vegas became a union town) and sucks off the local economy. "You need the synergy of 10 or more big casinos to attract the best players," noted Thompson, who has studied and written about the gaming industry for more than three decades. Having worked as a journalist in Las Vegas for 13 years, I can tell you that casino operators will say and do anything to get a gaming license and expand their reach. By setting a ridiculously low gaming tax of 10 percent, Fresen-Bogdanoff quickly signaled that they're horrible poker players. Gaming companies run numbers for a living, and know a sucker from a mile away. Las Vegas, Atlantic City and 900 cheesy casino venues in between stand as monuments of a contemptuous and parasitic enterprise that promises money for nothing. / By: Kenric Ward / October 28, 2011

Small Casinos Angry Over Gaming Bill

FL - The new casinos would be allowed to offer all Las Vegas-style games including baccarat, roulette, and craps, while the smaller already-established casinos are restricted to offering poker, slot machines and the parimutuel activities such as horse or dog racing. / Oct 27, 2011

South Florida Republicans file bill to allow casino gambling resorts

FL - The Bogdanoff/Fresen bill would, according to The Miami Herald... Allow three "full Las Vegas-style games" in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The Herald adds that "casinos would pay 10 percent tax on net revenues," "less than the 35 percent tax rate now imposed on the revenues of the state's eight pari-mutuels with slot machine licenses in South Florida." South Florida pari-mutuels want their "racino" slot machines to be taxed less if casinos are allowed. "a State Gaming Commission and a Department of Gaming Control would create a sprawling new bureaucracy to oversee what promoters hope to parlay into a multibillion-dollar industry." / 10.27.11

South Florida lawmakers push bill to expand casino gambling in Broward, Miami-Dade

FL - Against the backdrop of another multi-billion deficit in 2012 and more than 900,000 Floridians without jobs, the proposal has the blessing of Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who recently said his chamber will give it an up-or-down vote before the legislature wraps up the 2012 session in March. "The best time to put a shining lure out there is always when we're hungry," said state Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, the former head of the Florida Christian Coalition and a fierce gambling opponent. "The gaming industry knows that. They know we're having a hard time with these budgets." House Speaker Dean Cannon, an Orlando Republican whose district is in Disney World's shadow, remains on the fence about an expansion of gambling under his watch. This year, a similar bill did not get a hearing in any House committee. Meanwhile, federal investigators are looking into Las Vegas Sands' Macau operations. And Singapore officials fined Genting $425,000 this year for violating gambling laws. / Oct. 25, 2011

The battle for destination casinos: A Reader's Guide

FL - Other: MGM and Ceasar's are also interested in the market and worked with Sands and Wynn on language that was presented to Fresen and Bogdanoff on how they thought the process should work. Mardi Gras, Isle of Capris, Calder Casino and Race Course, Magic City and the Dania and Miami Jai-Alais work together as a coalition. The group wants a more favorable tax rate if the Legislature passes the destination resorts bill. The pari-mutuels are currently taxes 35 percent on slot machine revenues, but the new facilities, under the current bill, would pay only a 10 percent tax. / October, 27 2011

* * * Two Vegas magnates disagree on Miami's casino potential

FL - Adelson, the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands casino company, sees Miami capable of supporting a single casino resort. But Wynn, who named his signature 4,750-room Vegas property after himself, describes Miami as a place where competing casinos can thrive. A leading analyst this week warned Las Vegas could lose as much as 15 percent of its business to South Florida if the Sunshine State allows three new casino resorts to open in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area. At the center of the debate is Genting, a Malaysian casino giant that promises to revolutionize South Florida tourism with a $4 billion waterfront casino resort in downtown Miami. "As far as Miami is concerned," Adelson said , "there's not enough casino business -- either mass [market] or at the high-end -- even on a ramped-up, stabilized basis to support multiple locations." A new report out this week concludes that while South Florida has Vegas potential, it can't support the three casino resorts allowed under the bill. Analysts at Bernstein, a leading watcher of gambling stocks, calculated South Florida's gambling potential by meshing Las Vegas statistics with Miami's strong appeal with international travelers. One challenge is that Florida's existing Indian casinos and racetrack already generate about $3 billion in gambling dollars a year, meaning the state would need to become a $7 billion gambling market under the three-resort plan -- bigger than both Vegas and Singapore. "Possible? Yes," the report states. "Probable? No." / 10.28.11

WSJ: Sands lawyers are asking employees to retain docs in bribery probe

FL - Las Vegas Sands disclosed in March that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Justice Department were investigating whether the company violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. No details of the probe have been released. / 10-24-11

Weekly Roundup: Mack Attack in GOP Senate Race

FL - The 142-page bill (HB 487) allows the state to issue up to three resort casino permits in counties where voters have already passed or would pass referendums approving expanding gambling. It also creates more government. Modeled after similar regulatory agencies in New Jersey and Nevada, the proposed Department of Gaming Control would strictly regulate gambling in the state, from pari-mutuel racetrack facilities to Internet cafes. / October 29, 2011

What's up with Stormin' Norman Braman?

FL - Norman is joining the push against casino gambling coming to South Florida. / October 24, 2011

Will Port Canaveral ante up for casinos?

FL - "You just don't want to be left out of the mix," said Payne, the port's chief executive officer, noting that a casino would present an opportunity to attract more tourists to the area. With talk heating up at the state legislative level on allowing more casinos in Florida, Payne said he plans to bring the issue up to the Canaveral Port Authority board. He wants to get a sense of commissioners' views on the issue of having a land-based casino at the port. Rob Varley, executive director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism, said Brevard County "is a real hot spot" for the potential expansion of gambling, with the port site one of the prime locations. Melbourne Greyhound Park, which has parimutuel betting as well as a poker room, is another possible site for casino gambling. / Oct. 25, 2011

With Florida casino gambling bill near, developer shares vision for resort, jobs

FL - Rep. Steve Precourt, a Republican from theme-park rich Orlando, has heard Genting's pitch and doesn't buy it. "Look at the new gambling efforts around the country --from Atlantic City to Biloxi -- and any of those new entrants have horribly cannibalized the local economy,'' said Precourt, chairman of the House Finance and Tax Committee. He predicts that resort casinos "will put a whole bunch of hotels and restaurants out of business, and it won't be limited to the local economy.'' he said. He said the attempts to lure convention business to the mega-resorts will sap Orlando's "bread-and-butter convention business" and then "take huge profits out of the community." Precourt is not a lone dissenting voice. House Speaker Dean Cannon, also from the Orlando area, said he's skeptical of the claims of the casino industry. He and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, with its new chairman from Disney, have lined up against the casino legislation. / Oct. 24, 2011